Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I haven't grown Casaba melons before. I have been waiting to see when they look ripe. Sunday morning, Winston figured out that at least this one was ripe. There are only 3 on the whole vine. I can't believe he ate right through the rind. It smelled really good. I was disgusted that I had to throw this one away. The other two are a little behind this one. I am hoping that I get to them first.
I loved this photo though. It's like he is saying, what do you want, I 'm busy here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tovrea Castle Tour

Those of us who have lived in the valley very long, are all familiar with Tovrea Castle or the Birthday Cake Building. I have always been very curious about it and wanted to go inside. Today I got my chance. They now have tours on weekends. Due to the heat, the tour started at 7:30am. You start in this little visitor building with a welcome and movie that covers the history.
The site was originally homesteaded by the Weavers. It was purchased in 1928 by Alessio Carraro. He was of Italian ancestory and had a successfull sheet metal business in San Francisco. He came with his son and thought he would originally build a housing developement on the property with a hotel as the centerpiece, up on the hill.
This was the original front entrance. The gates were added later by the Tovreas.

 You go in little golf carts. This is the one behind us.
 There was a Russian gardener named Mokta who came and sold Carraro on the idea of a fabulous cactus garden. He laid it all out and planted it. Most of those orginal plants have died from neglect, but the layout is still there and there is restoration work going on.
 The Tovrea family owned the stockyards on the adjoining property, including the famous Stockyards restaurant. Carraro felt stymied in his plans due to the proximity of the feedlots. He sold to the Tovreas. There are two "platforms on the property with great views, just below the top of the hill. On the north platform is a monument commerating the Tovrea men. The aren't buried here. The mark is their brand that they used on their livestock.
 Once upon a time, Mrs. Tovrea had a reflecting pool here with rosegardens and a pergola at the end. Wouldn't that be lovely? They said it would be about 250,000 to restore. There were once around 200 peacocks that roamed the grounds and mastiffs. There were also aviaries with exotic birds.
 Among the terraced gardens are an old game court, water feature and patio. This patio had lamposts and concrete urns and fire pit.
 There is still 44 acres of mostly undisturbed land. There is quite a bit of wildlife on it.
 The statute on top of the Stockyards restaurant is clearly visible.
 The new pedestrian skyway at the airport and the planes are also part of the view.

 The old well house.
 The building the Carraros lived in while building the castle. Transients moved in at one point and the city moved them out and burned the building.

 View towards the reflecting pool and large east patio.
 This bell was from a train. They let you ring it. I did!

 Lights in the outside wall.

 The fireplace and dancing girl medallian were done by the same Italian artisans who were working on the Orpheum theatre.
 Lots of painted medallions.
 This electric china tea service was won by the family for their holiday lighting. Awarded by the Arizona Republic.

 The maple floors are original and beautiful. They were salvaged from a school. The chair was also original.
 One of Mrs. Tovrea's dresses.

 One of the care taker's dogs left claw marks in the door. They have left them there. It was a big dog.
 The kitchen cabinets were salvaged bank cabinets.
 Original sink.

 The ceiling in the basement looks like meringue.
 There are "tunnels" that lead out of the basement to the grounds.
 This vault was salvaged from an old bank.
 Lunch at Richardson's after the tour!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Big Boys of Summer

I haven't had as much luck with the garden this last spring summer. I am not sure why. Maybe the rather odd inconsistent weather. Nevertheless, I have had some things which have been fun and different. I grew an artichoke. See the choke coming above? I cooked it and ate it. It was fine, but seemed a little more trouble than it was worth. After Keegan and I saw the artichokes blooming at the botanical garden, we decided to let the chokes go ahead and bloom. This flower is huge and really reather cool.

 In the past I haven't had a lot of luck with zucchini. I know they are supposed to be easy and prolific, but I didn't seem to have many bees and so had little to no luck with all the cucubiticea family (squash, melons, cucumbers). When I was at the nursery this Spring though, I ran into a guy who told me to take the male flower and peel away the petals, then use the stamen to pollinate the female flowers. Success! I have been have a prolific crop of these bad boys. I am trying to pick them before they become baseball bats. I have made zucchini salsa, zucchini cassarole, zucchini pancakes, zucchini orange cake, zucchini muffins, chocolate zucchini bread, zucchini bread, coconut zucchini bread and cranberry nut zucchini bread. It's all been pretty good really. And of course, plain steamed zucchini and vegetable kabobs. I've given away about 10.
 I have also had a steady supply of bell peppers, peppers, garlic, onions, only a hadful of tomatoes this year (very sad), rosemary, cilantro, a few yellow squash and right now one casaba melon. I have an eggplant still growing and maybe a tomatillo and okra. They just look a bit wimpy.
I've fertilized and will see what happens, but meanwhile I am grateful for these fun zucchini to experiment with!